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Published: 2019-10-07 11:34 | Updated: 2019-10-08 14:38

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019 to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza

Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, announcing the 2019 Nobel Laureates of Physiology or Medicine. Photo: Erik Flyg

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

Collage with portrait of William G. Kaelin Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza
The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly goes to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

Animals need oxygen for the conversion of food into useful energy. The fundamental importance of oxygen has been understood for centuries, but how cells adapt to changes in levels of oxygen has long been unknown.

William G. Kaelin Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza discovered how cells can sense and adapt to changing oxygen availability. They identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen.

The seminal discoveries by this year’s Nobel Laureates revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes. They established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function. Their discoveries have also paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases.

William G. Kaelin, Jr.

William G. Kaelin, Jr. was born in 1957 in New York. He obtained an M.D. from Duke University, Durham. He did his specialist training in internal medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. He established his own research lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and became a full professor at Harvard Medical School in 2002. He is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1998.

Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe

Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe was born in 1954 in Lancashire, United Kingdom. He studied medicine at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University and did his specialist training in nephrology at Oxford. He established an independent research group at Oxford University and became a full professor in 1996. He is the Director of Clinical Research at Francis Crick Institute, London, Director for Target Discovery Institute in Oxford and Member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Gregg L. Semenza

Gregg L. Semenza was born in 1956 in New York. He obtained his B.A. in Biology from Harvard University, Boston. He received an MD/PhD degree from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Philadelphia in 1984 and trained as a specialist in pediatrics at Duke University, Durham. He did postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore where he also established an independent research group. He became a full professor at the Johns Hopkins University in 1999 and since 2003 is the Director of the Vascular Research Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering.